Ridesharing services and car rentals can both get you where you need to go, but which is better for your business trip?
Before you or your employees touch down on a business trip, you'll need to have ground transportation figured out. Although cabs were once a popular option, rideshare services have rendered them obsolete by providing the same benefits and none of the weaknesses. You can request a car easily, there's no worry about getting ripped off, and it's less expensive.
Despite this, there are circumstances where a rental car will fit your needs better than rideshares. Each has its advantages, and which is better depends on the area you're going to and the amount of car travel involved.
Comparing the typical costs of each
Prices for rideshare services and rental cars vary based on the area, but you can still get an idea for which will be cheaper by the type of commuting you'll do on your business trip.
With a rideshare service, you pay a per-mile rate and a per-minute rate, both of which are much lower than what cabs charge. The rates depend on the city, and Uber and Lyft are usually similar or exactly the same in this regard. A short ride could cost you just $5 to $10, whereas a longer ride could cost $20 to $40.
Distance is more important than time, because the per-mile rate is much greater than the per-minute rate. For example, in Los Angeles, Uber and Lyft charge 90 cents per mile but only 15 cents per minute. Note that those are for UberX and standard Lyft, the most inexpensive ride options besides each service's carpool options (where multiple riders share a car).
Fares increase significantly during periods of high demand. Uber refers to this as surge pricing, and Lyft calls it prime time. Depending on how drastic the difference in driver supply and rider demand is, fares could double, triple or more. This is rare during normal business hours, as it usually happens on holidays, during special events and in the evenings on weekends.
With a rental car, you pay a daily rental fee, which is typically $40 to $70 for an economy or intermediate car. Insurance is optional, but your credit card may include rental car coverage already. Besides that, your only expense is gas.
When rideshares are the superior option
From a convenience perspective, rideshares are the best way to get around. You don't need to worry about navigating an unfamiliar area or finding parking at your destination. Your driver will handle those for you, leaving you free to work, respond to emails or make calls while on the road.
If you're visiting a large city or any well-populated area, rideshares will likely be more affordable than renting a car. Everything is packed closer together, so you shouldn't have many high-mileage commutes.
Uber and Lyft also allow you to set up business accounts with them. These accounts have helpful tools for business owners, including the ability to track employee rides, set ride restrictions and limits, and get real-time expense reports.
When it's better to go the rental route
There are situations where you'll either save money or have a much easier trip with a rental car. Major cities are the most popular destinations for business trips, but if you're going somewhere outside those areas, rideshares won't be as convenient because there aren't nearly as many drivers available. That means longer wait times for a ride and the risk of no drivers being available when you need them.
If your trip includes drives longer than 25 to 30 miles, then it makes sense to get a rental car. Make sure you also take any special events into consideration when you plan your transportation. For example, if you're going to a conference, there could be many attendees requesting rides each day, leading to much higher fares due to that increased demand.
Rideshares keep getting better
Unless you or your employees often travel to rural areas on business, rideshares will usually be the more convenient method of transportation. They'll either be cheaper or cost about the same as a rental car, and their coverage areas are continually expanding.
You can also compare how much each option would cost before going on a trip. Fare estimator tools are available through Uber and Lyft for all the areas they serve; just plug in a starting point and destination to calculate how much a ride would cost. Compare the total cost on your expected rides with the cost of a rental car and gas to see which is the more affordable choice.